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June 14, 2020
Second Sunday after PentecostELCA Commemoration of Emanuel Nine
For some people, the events of the past two weeks have been a rude awakening. For others, the truth has been shouted from the streets. But regardless of your view on current events, these are chaotic days. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.
In last week’s gospel, we heard Jesus’ Great Commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
In today’s reading, we get a glimpse of the world Jesus sent the disciples into. If you have a Bible handy – or if you have a Bible app on your phone (and if you don’t have a Bible app on your phone, you should) – I invite you to read the first part of chapter 9 in Matthew’s gospel: Jesus heals a man who was paralyzed; ate dinner with a man who was a tax collector and then called him to be a disciple; brought back to life a little girl that had died; healed a woman who had been hemorrhaging; healed two men that were blind; and cast out a demon.
Everywhere Jesus and the disciples went, there were people in need of healing. They were scared and anxious. It was chaotic. And Jesus had compassion for them; he entered into their chaos and brought healing, and he sent the disciples into it, too.
nd they went with essentially the clothes on their backs. They didn’t receive any additional education before going; they didn’t have extra money, an extra pair of shoes or change of clothes. They simply went with what they had and did as Jesus commanded.
When we read this today, it’s easy to think that the disciples waived a magic wand of sorts and healed one person after another in quick succession. And in the places that refused them, they did leave quickly.
But in the places that accepted them and gave them hospitality, they spent time there with the people. And as they did, we can assume that they listened to the people there. They heard their stories and brought healing to their lives.
And when they returned, we can also assume they didn’t only tell Jesus about the things they’d done, they also told him what they’d learned from the people they’d encountered. And I think it’s safe to assume, too, that the disciples had compassion for them.
That, like Jesus, they recognized that when life is chaotic and unjust for some, everyone is in need of healing.
When we think about that in relation to what’s going on in our world today, it shapes our perspective. Between the ongoing pandemic and the events of the past few weeks, the things that divide us have been made abundantly clear. And they show us that the world is as chaotic and in as much need of healing today as it was when Jesus walked the earth. And as his followers, Jesus sends us into that chaos.
And if your reaction to that is to think, “Oh man” – this is what God calls us to in our baptism. Proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth – is the life God calls us to live.
And that life, our discipleship, is disruptive. It shakes things up in our families and communities and even in our churches. And it will humble us to our knees. But, ultimately, it brings healing.
On June 17, 2015, a young white man named Dylann Roof went to the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC and attended Bible Study with some members of the congregation, who were black.
Towards the end of the Bible study, Roof shot and killed nine of the people who were present. Their names were:
The Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney,
Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd,
Ethel Lee Lance,
The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons,
and Myra Thompson.
Dylann Roof killed them because he wanted to incite a race war; he was raised in an ELCA congregation. The Reverends Pinckney and Simmons both graduated from an ELCA seminary. Our church’s relationship to the shooter as well as two of the victims can’t be ignored. We have work to do. There is great need of healing.
This work will not be completed after only a few weeks of protests and demonstrations. When it comes to the work of dismantling racism and other forms of discrimination, there are no quick fixes. Dismantling a centuries-old system that includes culture and ways of thinking will take time and dedication and love.
It will disrupt our lives. It will humble us. It will make us listen to each other and encourage compassion for people who are most affected by it. And ultimately, it will heal us.
Being sent into the chaos doesn’t always mean marching in the streets. Sometimes it means learning the names of the people who are local activists and encouraging the people who do march, or making financial donations to the sponsoring organizations, or to bail funds, or to churches who are in the heart of the activity.
But, often, being sent into the chaos disrupts us more than that. Sometimes it means repeatedly contacting your elected representatives and demanding change. Sometimes it means calling out that family member or friend who always makes a racist comment at dinner.
Sometimes, it means admitting that even though you believe “all lives matter”, that isn’t the experience that people who are black have lived.
Discipleship, following Jesus, is disruptive. It shakes things up in our families and communities and even in our churches. It will humble us to our knees. And it ultimately heals us.
As people who follow Jesus, being sent into the chaos means recognizing that the healing work God calls us to will likely not be completed in our lifetime. But that doesn’t mean we don’t engage in it because it’s everywhere we look.
Last Thursday, on Twitter, @BerniceKing reminded us that:
The work is offline.
The work is online.
The work is presence.
The work is strategic absence.
The work is virtual.
The work is in the streets.
The work is in the legislative halls.
The work is in art.
The work is in policies.
The work is at the polls.
The work is where we are.
I would add that the work is wherever Jesus is, because he has entered into it with us.
When Jesus sends us into the chaos, it’s an invitation to participate in the healing he brings to the world. It can be disorienting at first. You look every which way trying to get your bearings and steady yourself. And then you move forward.
Discipleship: proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and striving for justice and peace in all the earth – is the life God calls us to live.
It’s a life that is disruptive, and humbling. It puts us in the position of listening to each other and having compassion. Ultimately, it’s a life that heals us and the world. Amen.
 ELW – Liturgy of Holy Baptism